Ten Books to read this holiday season.December 1, 2011
A brand new year is round the corner. This is the time we take stock of the year past. We analyze and appraise; chalk up our victories and brood over our defeats. We drift away to a world populated by the ghosts of ‘what might have been’. Sometimes, we even permit ourselves the pointless indulgence of rationalizing our errors and blaming others for what we know was our own lack of follow through.
Once we are done with the year already gone, we turn our face to the one the shines alluringly ahead, imbued with the promise of all that could be, and all that we could achieve. From the ashes of the year past, we dig out the unfulfilled dreams and unreached goals of last year and bring them to the anvil once again. With a deep breath of new hope, we light the fire of our soul and watch as our dreams light up, ready to be forged into a new will.
We give ourselves another chance to renew and reawaken our potential and look for tools and resources which will assist us. It is said:
Five years from now, you would remain the same person you are now, but for the people you let into your life.
For me, the easiest way of letting people into my life is through books.
It is chiefly through books that we enjoy the communion with superior minds. In the best books, authors talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books.
~ William Ellery Channing.
I am an avid reader with an eclectic taste. I read all kinds of books. The books which make their home in my heart however, are those that grab me firmly by the hand, entice my mind and heart and take me on an exhilarating voyage of discovery within my own inner world. Once a book ensconces itself in my heart, I know it will always stay there. I have read such books over and over, learning something new each time. Perhaps this is the reason I like to own the books which live in my heart… for I read them many times.
Over the years, many books have blessed my life. In moments of despair and loneliness, they have become my counsel and the shoulder I have rested my head on. They have spoken to me- cajoling, encouraging and scolding. Their authors have become my confidants and fellow travelers who have flopped down on dusty roads hobbling with the same boils on the feet of their travel worn souls as I had on mine. For years, books have been my only solace… remaining consistently the same… sans agenda, moods and demands of reciprocation. What more could one ask for?
Of the many scores of books that have shaped me into what I have become today, the following are my all time favorites. I have read them many times, and yet find the ocean of their wisdom ever deepening and inexhaustible. Will you also step into the brand new year armed with these tools of self-renewal? Here, check them out (in alphabetical order):
1. Atlas Shrugged ~Ayn Rand: I didn’t want to be partial, so decided to list the books in alphabetical order. This one came tops with no manipulations required, pleasing me no end. You see, this IS my most loved book. I have been reading it steadily since I was a slip of a girl, and am on round 344 at present. Yes, I am nuts about it.
What is it about? It is about men of vision, genius and courage- the struggles they endure from a world which is eager to benefit from their creativity which breaks open new paths and soars to new worlds… but denies them recognition and accolades and tries to keep them chained endlessly to do their bidding. It is about the love these men have for their visions; love for the sake of which they permit themselves to be so chained… just so they would be allowed to walk the paths their spirit has chosen for them. It is about these men going on a strike… and their ultimate victory once the world learns that men of genius cannot be chained.
I could write about it forever, but I’d rather you read it yourself.
2. Awaken the Giant Within ~Anthony Robbins: In eight years, Anthony turned his life around. From an overweight, loveless, jobless man to someone people collected in thousands to listen to! He makes this miracle happen by using Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques, some of which he teaches in the book. I was shocked to learn the power our everyday words wield on us, shaping our thoughts and our beliefs… and thus our actions. If I were to condense it in a sentence I’d say: Whether you are successful or not, it is you who have talked yourself into it.
Anthony uncovers the damage done by some of the most commonly held, disempowering beliefs and thought. It is these limiting beliefs and world views he says, that lead people into states of learned helplessness. He urges his readers, persuasively and gently, to let go of such beliefs and to replace them with empowering ones, to wake the giant of their potential and to soar.
3. Conversations with God ~ Neale Donald Walsh: If you’ve ever asked yourself a question like: Why does God permit the world to be in such a mess… or… why do bad things happen only to me… or… why was I even born… or… or… or… I mean, you get the drift, right? What I mean is, if you ever asked yourself such questions- as I did- you’d find some answers in this book.
Here is the fine print. This is not ‘a’ book; this is a trilogy. But you can always read one, they cannot shoot you. (Yes, I checked. But I bought all three anyhow, just to be on the safe side. I urge you to do the same.) Neale’s premise is that it is not he who is writing the book. The book is dictated to him by the Big Chief personally. I baulked a bit at that I one, I confess. But by the time I was 30 pages into the book, I could have testified to the claim being abnormally true!
4. Future Shock ~ Alvin Toffler: Written in the 60’s, this book is the first of a trilogy. The other two books of the series are The Third Wave and Powershift.
Future Shock refers to a state of mind (like shell shock I presume) brought on by a shift in the social/ societal dynamics. According to Toffler, the society of the future will be governed by a need to adapt on the run, brought on by rapid change on multiple levels, happening simultaneously. With ever decreasing turn-around times, the pressure on people will mount. They will suffer from what he called FutureShock. This FutureShock will take a toll on every aspect of their lives- work, relationships and personal space.
His observations are not a study of the social trends of the times he lived in, it is a projection (and an amazing accurate one at that) of the social trends (and maladies) that will be prevalent in the society of the future. Considering that he had NO idea at all, of the manner in which technology will upset all precedent and expectations, his predictions are all the more astounding. The world of the future that Toffler talks about is the world we live in today! I recommend this book because Toffler not only describes the state of flux in today’s world; he also suggests strategies of coping with its pressures.
5. Man’s Search for Meaning ~ Viktor Frankl: Dr Frankl is an Austrian psychotherapist in pre-WWII days. He was of Jewish origin and ended up as an inmate of the most notorious concentration camps- first Dachau and later Auschwitz. Primarily, this book is not about the horror of his camp experiences. He has used the atrocities of a concentration camp as a means to study the reason men survive- or give up in despair.
The style of the narration is objective and stoic. As he states himself, his purpose was not to horrify the reader by describing in gory detail the inhumanity the camp inmates endured. With amazing grace, compassion and fairness, he looks beyond the suffering to bring a valuable lesson to mankind. He demonstrates that it is not the presence of pain that breeds despair in the hearts of men- compelling them to give up on life. Men give up when they can find no meaning and no worthiness in their pain and suffering. As long as men can find something worth suffering for, hope will burn bright in their hearts.
As he says many times in the book- As long as you know the ‘why’, you can endure any ‘how’.
6. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ~ Stephen Covey: This is Dr Covey’s first book. Over the years, this book has become a classic across the world. Here are reasons I love this book.
Not only are the seven principles (on which the seven habits are based) eternal, they have also been presented in a simple manner. You cannot help but agree that they are self-evident and obvious. What I liked best is that Dr Covey comes along with his reader on the journey that reveals these principles one by one. He doesn’t come across as a teacher, but as a fellow traveler. He freely talks of his own faulty perceptions and with touching humility shares the pain those perceptions caused in his life. Only then, does he show the slow unfolding of his own transformation as he acquires new paradigms and beliefs.
The journey he deftly takes you on is not only enjoyable, but also effortless. Without seeming to, you learn and shift vantage points in your inner world. By the time you finish reading the book, you find yourself changed. Of course, the degree of that change depends entirely on your own inner dynamics and willingness to let go of limiting dogmas.
7. Sidhharth ~ Hermann Hesse: Inspired by the life of Budhha, this is the story of a young Brahmin who seeks self-realization. He follows the recommended paths until he realizes that he has moved no closer to his quest. He becomes a wanderer- living first as an ascetic and then re-entering the world to experience the life of a man of wealth.
Disillusioned and almost ready to give up his quest as impossible, events lead him to the river bank where he decides to live out the last of his days. There, by the flowing water, he learns to look within, to listen to his inner voice. That’s when he gathers the meaning of life and experiences the wholeness and the wisdom which come with the realization.
8. The Speed of Trust ~ Stephen M. R. Covey: His first public appearance was in one of the stories his father related in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In this, his first book, he talks about trust. I recommend this book for many reasons.
This is the most exhaustive book ever written on a subject as elusive and intangible as trust. It gave validity to what was vague and nebulous in my mind. Being strongly intuitive, I have always known whom I trusted and whom I didn’t. What I never understood was, why. I was never able to put my finger on the specific behaviors untrustworthy people demonstrated which made me wary of them. I learned to observe and identify those behaviors after I read this book. Trust me (pun not intended), this is a skill you’d find very valuable.
In addition, he lists out thirteen behaviors that trustworthy people have. He gives a very comprehensive checklist of what behaviors and mannerisms to watch out for when dealing with people, so that you’d be able to evaluate them for trustworthiness. Best of all, he gives a detailed series of steps to follow if you have- through sheer carelessness- lost someone’s trust I haven’t come across any other book which teaches you how to make amends and repair relationships as beautifully as this book does.
9. Three Men in a Boat ~ Jerome K Jerome: Technically speaking, this book doesn’t really belong in this list of serious resources to help you build a more empowered life. I included it here because I consider laughter one of the most important skills your arsenal must possess. As Anthony Robbins asks: What can I do to enjoy the process (of achieving your goals) meanwhile?
What can make the journey sparkle with fun more than to delve into prose vibrantly alive with anecdotes so packed with humor as to make you guffaw helplessly with soul-cleansing laughter? Written in the beginning of the last century, this is a story of three young men who, bored with their mundane routine, hire a boat and decide to row up the Thames. British capacity humor was never as delectably demonstrated as when the author recounts the experiences- peppered with delightful detours- that he and two of his friends go through. No matter how many times I read this, there are always passages which make me roll as I hold aching sides, while my children watch on wondering if their mother has finally lost it, as they feared she would one day, all along.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird ~ Harper Lee: This is the first, and the only, book Harper Lee wrote. Fifty years after its first print, it is still in print. What else can testify to the book’s eternal and enduring appeal?
A small town in southern USA is the backdrop of the story, written in first person by a six year old girl who lives with her elder brother and lawyer father. The sleepy town is rudely stripped of its complacency and pretentions of equality exposing the underlying bigotry in all its virulence.
The lawyer Atticus Finch has become a legend over the years. Consistent, compassionate and courageous, he takes up the mantle his town and community thrust upon him. He becomes the conscience of the town, and fights without, a battle each member of that small community fights within his own soul. What makes me love this book and return to it again and again is that he wins, not with horns blaring and a lot of fireworks, but in the way huge battles are won in a man’s inner space. He wins quietly with a silent giving in which is more emphatic than any amount of fanfare could have been.
Books are the shoes with which we tread in the footsteps of great minds. To read a book is to have your personal coach who lifts you high and gives you a new vantage point at viewing life- one you never thought existed before.
“Give me a fulcrum,” Archimedes is reported to have said, “and a place to stand—and I will move the world.”
I hope you these books will become the fulcrum as you stand in the vastness your inner space ready to move your world. My best wishes for the coming season of transformation.
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